Orford General Store
 
Orford General Store

Welcome to Orford Village Store

“Everything you want from a village store and more….”
We are looking to reinvent the village store in Orford into a vibrant place with maximum choice at the best possible prices for local people, plus catering for our many visitors to the Suffolk Coast. We are passionate about selecting the best local products available and blending with all the major brands that customers love.  We have over 60 local suppliers making everything from our homemade pies and cakes, to fresh pesto, yogurts.”

Welcome to the Best Village Shop in Britain – The Telegraph

Penny Teale’s deli in the quiet village of Orford has won this year’s Best
Village Shop award. What are her secrets to keeping customers happy?

Penny Teale in Orford Deli
It’s a sunny midweek morning on the Suffolk coast, and in the pretty little village of Orford, some 32 customers are doing their shopping in the general store.
Well, some aren’t actually shopping, they’re having an espresso in the store’s in-house coffee bar. Others are queuing to send off letters, in the part of the store that’s the post office. And others are either standing around and chatting, or else sitting down at the table and reading the newspapers that are provided free of charge.
There’s a fair bit of buying going on as well, mind you. Well-heeled ladies are standing in front of the chiller section, wondering whether to go for home-made haddock pie or a Moroccan spiced lamb ready meal, with their bottle of Chassagne-Montrachet (£29.99) tonight.
Meanwhile, men in wellington boots are searching the shelves for their bargain-price baked beans (35p a tin) and mayonnaise (69p a jar). It’s a bit crowded in places (the shop is shaped like a long railway carriage), but the atmosphere is friendly and convivial, a bit like a drinks party without the drinks.
Standing in the middle of it all, surveying the morning throng, is the store’s proprietor Penny Teale, who took over the business at the end of 2010, and whose transformation of it has won her the Telegraph-sponsored Best Village Shop title in this year’s Countryside Alliance Awards. “A shining example of what can be achieved with application, endeavour and not a little business acumen” is how the store was described by Philip Johnston, assistant editor of the Telegraph, and one of the judges. “Penny Teale was the standout candidate in this category.”
It’s not her first venture into retail. After completing a degree in fashion design, she embarked upon a 25-year career as executive buyer with Homebase, Argos and Sainsbury’s, and it’s the professional expertise she acquired during that time which has enabled her to approach the Orford General Store as a business rather than a hobby. “You can’t overestimate the value of a village shop to its community,” says Penny, over a latte brewed by one of her trained young baristas. “That having been said, though, it does need to make a profit.” And the way she finds out whether that’s happening is not by doing rough sums
in the back of a little notebook, but by consulting her computer at the end of  every working day. For as well as spending £6,000 on a coffee machine (with service and repair contract included), she has also invested in the kind of software package a large supermarket might use.
“It tells me exactly what I paid for a product, exactly what I sold it for, and it calculates the profit made,” she explains. “You can’t run a business like this unless you have a clear picture of the financial situation at any one time. “And that’s just the start of it. I price-check Tesco and Waitrose every day to see how we compare. On fruit and vegetables, I’m cheaper than Waitrose, and on fresh bread I’m on a par. Where I can’t beat the supermarkets is on tins of beans and the like.”
Where she can beat them is on personal service (she responds to individual requests for everything from low-alcohol wine to particular types of bread), and on the range of bespoke, local products she stocks. This may be rural East Anglia, but we’re not just talking swedes and turnips. Her 40 local suppliers provide her with everything from pâté to pesto, from duck truffle to black olive tapenade, from garlic and paprika salami to plum and almond tart. On top of which, the store has a built-in butcher’s shop, serving fresh meat and seven flavours of sausage, plus a cheese counter offering 30 different cheeses from a firm in nearby Framlingham. These include aromatic Stinking Bishop, soft and creamy blue Beauvale, and a gooey Austrian offering, only available in the months when the spring grass is sprouting.  In charge of the cheeses is Christine Murdoch, one of the store’s 14 staff (six full-time, eight part-time). As well as being able to explain the difference between Shipcord (like a powerful cheddar) and Suffolk Gold (like a mild Brie), she also has a special role in the village. “She’s the vicar’s wife,” says cook, author and presenter Clarissa Dickson Wright, another member of the Telegraph judging panel. “Now this is a sure-fire way of getting things done!”
Nevertheless, it takes more than just a few words after Sunday evensong to keep the village up to date with the store’s initiatives. As well as doing regular leaflet drops and newsletters, and arranging special tastings of new products, Penny also runs a blog, written (she says) by Spike, her pet schnauzer. You only have to talk to the customers to find that the locals like what she’s doing.
“I am so thankful we have this store in our village,” says Hilary Spice, who’s lived in Orford for three years. “Before Penny came here, the shop didn’t even stock pepper. Now she’ll get you anything you want – fennel, whatever; and she’ll have it delivered to your door.” Equally enthusiastic are Carol and Derek Forbes, here for their morning elevenses. “I run my own business, and have to send off a lot of large envelopes which won’t fit into a postbox,” says Derek. “Without this place, I’d have to drive 14
miles just to the nearest post office.” “It’s the same for me,” says Carol. “When Waitrose opened in Saxmundham, 15
miles away, I used to go there all the time. Now that Penny’s got the store up and running, though, I do all my shopping here.”
Meanwhile, for Alexia Bell, here to pick up chicken and carrots to make broth for her ailing husband, it’s the cashpoint and the café that are the draw. “This store is like a home from home,” she says. “Apart from anything else, I’m Italian, and need to be close to somewhere with good coffee.” And the more people you talk to, the more reasons they cite for coming here,
whether it’s to knit the communal village scarf (12ft-long and counting), or to pick up budget-range basics; along with all the fresh mangos and upmarket sausages, there are plenty of frozen oven chips and standard Walls bangers.
“I’d say we have a total of 500 customers in all,” says Penny, when asked about the economics. “Some live here all the time, some are here for four nights and spend the other three in London, some are well-off, some less so.“How do I make this shop pay? Simple. Each one of those customers is as important as the other.”
The rural Oscars in full The Countryside Alliance Awards started life in 2005 as the Best Rural Retailer competition, to celebrate local businesses.
The awards are split into five categories (the best Local Food Awards, Best  Enterprise Award, Best Butcher, Best Rural Start- up and the Telegraph Best Village Shop award). Entrants are nominated by members of the public. For a full list of winners in all the other award categories, how to nominate your favourite business for next year’s awards, and a list of the judges, visit
countrysideallianceawards.org.uk.

Come and celebrate summer with us…

Coffee Lover?

Being a coffee lover just got a whole lot better value. If you are staying in the village or live here, drop by, have your coffee and pick up your free coffee collector card. Buy just 9 coffees made using our own hand blended Revelation Blend or guest coffee and get the tenth absolutely FREE.

What could be better than that!

Price Checked

We regularly price check a basket of lines against Waitrose (who in turn check against Tesco), to make sure we remain competitive. In many cases it pays to support your local store.

Coming to stay in Orford?

If you are visiting Orford, we would be more than happy to get your provisions ready for you to collect from the shop, or we will deliver to your home.  More time to enjoy yourself instead of doing the chores.  Just drop us an email or call through your order; info@orfordgeneralstore.com or 01394 450219.

For the first time we are displaying our wares outside the shop.  We are taking a stand at the Country Fair on 19th May. The Orford Primary School Kitchen Project and the Jamie Oliver Foundation are coming together to organise a special Orford Food Revolution Day Market on May 19th, as part of a global Food Revolution Day campaign. The goal of the day is to promote local, real food.  Check out more on the following website http://www.foodrevolutionday.com